I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
Information related to the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card was neither provided nor reviewed by Chase. I do not have my own direct referral link to this product, and gathered information on its offerings independently.
Reader Mary Jane asked,
Hi Gary, The annual free night that IHG gives to their cc holders, can it be used by others or only by the person whose name is on the cc? I’m thinking of signing my son up.
- The IHG Rewards Club free night is valid at any of their hotel properties.
- The Hyatt free night can only be used at hotels that are designated category 4 (out of 7 categories) or below.
- The Marriott free night can only be used at hotels that are designated category 5 (out of 9 categories, not counting Ritz-Carlton categories) or below.
The Citi Hilton Reserve card comes with an annual free weekend night valid at nearly any Hilton family property each year you spend $10,000 or more on the card.
In general though I don’t like ‘free nights’ as much as points. I’d rather save my points, use them for whatever room I wish, whenever I wish. These free nights generally expire after one year if they aren’t used. And they can only be used by the person that receives them.
One great way to get more than one night is for two people that travel together to each have the card and each earn their annual free night. Then you make two back-to-back reservations. Now you have a free two night stay.
But what about if you aren’t going to use the award night? Can’t you give it to someone else?
Technically, the rule is no. In practice however you often can. In fact, that’s even one of the insights behind Hyatt’s new Diamond benefit, “Guest of Honor.”
If you’re traveling with someone, you make a reservation in your own name. If they’re going to be arriving first, you want to make sure their name is on the reservation also, so that they can check in ahead of you. In fact, everyone staying at a hotel should really be registered as a guest.
What happens is that people:
- Make reservations in their name
- Add someone else as a second guest
- The second guest checks in
- The person who made the reservation never does
People use this technique not just to transfer free night awards, but also:
- To earn elite status and bonus points from promotions through others’ stays
- To complete a ‘status challenge’ through someone else’s stays
- To give the benefit of their elite status to family and friends who don’t have status
This isn’t permitted and indeed a hotel would be perfectly within its rights to not honor a free night unless the named member shows up. They’re unlikely to do this.
The hotel would similarly be within its rights to deny elite benefits until the actual elite member showed up. In practice this rarely happens, though I have heard of it happening.
People who do this are clearly breaking the spirit of a program’s rules, but since those rules are rarely enforced it’s hard to have much sympathy. Indeed, Hyatt changed its rules so that Diamonds don’t even need to do this in order to give the benefits of their status to someone else on an award stay. And Starwood lets you earn elite status credit for more than one room at a time at a hotel (in other words, for others’ stays as long as you are a registered guest also).
I don’t intentionally do it — though sometimes even gifting an award stay to someone else with Starwood will yield elite credit for me. That’s because the gifter’s name always remains on the booking, with the recipient added to the reservation as their mechanism for gifting the hotel night.
It’s a grey area for sure, but the question does have an answer.